Down The Road: Ann M. Williams

February 9, 2016

 

Ann M. Ferrell was born in 1937 to parents  Azora and Lloyd Ferrell in Mexia, Texas. The Ferrell family was a rather large family.  As a child, Williams’ mother recognized her daughter’s passion for dance and enrolled her in ballet and tap lessons.

While attending Lincoln High School, Williams had an opportunity to see the Dallas Opera. This single event greatly influenced her decision to study dance.

As a student at (what was then) Prairie View A&M College, Williams had the opportunity to hone her skills in dance and learn choreography. She graduated in 1960 and later enrolled in Texas Woman’s University  becoming the first black woman to earn a Master of Arts in dance. She went on to receive a certificate in Arts Management from Texas A&M University.

With the love and support of her husband of 44 years, the late Nathaniel Williams, along with the guidance of Arthur Mitchell, the legendary founder of The Dance Theatre of Harlem, Williams decided to open her own dance company. Armed with buy-in from community members, sororities, fraternities, churches and parents, Williams’ lifelong dream became reality. In 1974, at a church in Dallas, The Dallas Black Dance Theatre was finally born.

The Dance Theatre is structured to be a full learning environment. While there, students as young as 4 learn jazz, modern, tap and ballet. Students also are taught how to discipline the mind in order to have control over the body. Instructors work diligently to ensure that students sharpen their skill in dance, develop self- esteem and exude confidence.  Over the years, Williams has turned the Dallas Black Dance Theatre into an institution that has produced exquisite dancers and enabled hundreds to live their dream of becoming professional dancers.

Williams’ life has been devoted to serving as a mentor, teacher and leader in the community. She is an arts legend within the Texas arts community and she has received numerous awards and recognitions for her service including: an honorary Doctor of Philosophy in Dance at Texas Woman’s University; an honorary Doctor of Humanities from Northwood University; an induction into Texas Women’s Hall of Fame in 2002; and a Kennedy Center honor in Washington D.C. in 2005.  In addition to these accolades, Williams also served on the Board of Regents for six years at Texas Woman’s University.

While Williams is an accomplished dancer, choreographer and pioneer, her greatest achievement, the success about which she is most proud, is of her daughter, Angelia Williams Chancellor.

 

References

Williams, Ann, interview by Visual Biography Company. The Dream: Dallas Black Dance Theatre (May 14, 2014).

Dallas Black Dance Theatre . 2016. http://dbdt.com/about/founder/ (accessed February 2, 2016).